Nighttime photography for weddings

As things are growing much quicker than I ever imagined with this website one thing I am going to do is set a weekly schedule for posts. More to come on this later but it will give you all a great way to know what is coming on certain days of the week. I still need to do a little more research to set this schedule but in the meantime one thing I know people have been requesting is more actual live samples and how a certain shot was created. I’ll be bringing back the photo of the week as a set feature every week to focus on a image that I have created (or sometimes will open it up for you to submit one of your best shots), and walk through the creative process on how the image was conceptualized and then the technical aspect of how it was shot. I think there is so much we can all learn from each other by analyzing an image that was created.

So for this weeks photo of the week I am going to walk through a recent wedding image that I shot.
This was shot at a wedding venue that I work at pretty often, its a beautiful golf course up in the hills of San Jose that has a balcony in the back with beautiful views of the city. I had photographed a bride and groom on the balcony earlier in the year overlooking this beautiful city view and the image turned out decent but something was still missing from it. At the time I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t that happy with the shot and during this wedding started thinking about doing a similar shot. Instead of shooting on the balcony I went to the side of the building where there was more room. As I was setting up the shot it hit me. I didn’t really like the images from the last wedding there because on the balcony there wasn’t much room so I shot with my 24-70 lens. With a wider lens the lights in the background were small and I wanted large out of focus lights to add that cool visual intrigue you get with a cool bokeh background. You can see what the scene looked like with a wider lens from this first test shot. Although the background looks decent it just wasn’t what I had envisioned.

So I placed my 70-200 lens on, set it at 200mm and took some steps back to really have those city lights get larger and softer. I could have moved in on the bride and groom even more to have the lights appear larger or shot at a lower f/stop for a softer background but wanted to make sure that the bride and groom where in focus. The setup of this shot is pretty simple, on light to the right of the camera up close to the bride and groom. On a lightstand with an umbrella and up in the air about 7 feet pointing down at them. The ISO was set to 800, the f/stop to 4.0 and the shutter speed was 1/6 of a second (on a tripod). With this slow shutter speed the lights in the background have time to get exposed correctly and since I am flashing the bride and groom they are frozen by the flash so there isn’t any blur on them.

Another piece you can add to this type of shot is a light to the side of the bride and groom to create a nice rim around them. This shot I added a light to the left of the bride and groom pointed right at her directly (with TTL shot with a PocketWizard FlexTT5. This gives a really nice rim light on her arm to give the image a little more dimension and pop.

Would love your feedback in the comments below, leave a message and start up a discussion.

Do you have a great image you want to share? Leave a comment below and we will contact you with more info about having a photo of the week feature.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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